Brandywine Creek State Park

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George Fieo
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Brandywine Creek State Park

Post by George Fieo » Sat Jul 16, 2011 3:45 am

ENTS,

I made several outings to Delaware's 933 acre Brandywine Creek State Park in December of 2010. The park is located in New Castle County and three miles north of Wilmington and just over a mile east of Winterthur. The Brandywine Creek, also referred to as the Brandywine River, flows south through the park creating two sections, west and east. The site was a former dairy farm in the late 1800's and was owned by the Du Pont family. The state's first two nature preserves are also within the park: Tulip Tree Woods and Freshwater Marsh.

Nearly half of the western portion of the park consists of passive fields and native meadows. Three to four foot high grey stone walls from the dairy farm era line the park's west border, meadows, and encompass Tulip Tree Woods. The other half is in several stages of succession with mature stands in Tulip Tree Woods, on the ridges, and in several small ravines along Brandywine Creek's west bank. Multiflora rose and other invasives choke the understory of woodlands that are in early succession. Several white oak wolf trees were found in this forest type. The largest measured 16'6" x 100.3'.
Me at the base of a 16'6" x 100.3' white oak.
Me at the base of a 16'6" x 100.3' white oak.
Tulip Tree Woods is a 24 acre preserve dominated by large 190-220 year old tulip poplars. Twelve specimens were documented with girths of 12' or more with heights over 120' with four surpassing 150'. The tallest of these measured 12'11" x 156.8'. The largest and likely oldest poplar in Tulip Tree Woods is 15'11" x 122.3'. The tallest measured is a slender 6'10" x 157.5' specimen. Common canopy species include black, northern red, and white oak, pignut hickory, and american beech. The largest and tallest white oak in the preserve is an impressive 11'4" x 130'. Two pignut hickories measured 7'2" x 141.2' and 7'4" x 141.7' and are the tallest documented for the park. The crotch of a blowdown has severely damaged the base scarring both sides of the taller specimen. A third or more of it's crown is dead and may not recover. Another park record within the preserve is an 8'5" x 135' american beech. A few white ash frequent the preserve's northwest corner with the largest and tallest specimen measuring 11'2" x 129.5'. Blackhaw viburnum and flowering dogwood were impressive as well with measurements of 1'2' x 30.3' and 2' x 52.4' respectively.
15'11" x 122.3' Tulip Tree Woods poplar.
15'11" x 122.3' Tulip Tree Woods poplar.
A small ravine west of Tulip Tree Woods along the creek's west bank also supports a few 150' tulip poplars and a very impressive black oak. The black oak is a personal best for me and may well be a state height record at 11'7" x 137.2'. Another small ravine to the south and north of Freshwater Marsh supports 9 species of mature trees with an average girth of more than 9' and an average height of 117'. An impressive 10'4" x 104.2' red maple, with crown damage, grows along a small spring at the base of the ravine and a 16' x 127' tulip poplar grows on the nothern ridge above the ravine.
Me at the base of an 11'7" x 137.2' black oak.
Me at the base of an 11'7" x 137.2' black oak.


The portion of the park east of the Brandywine Creek is even more impressive. Human disturbance has been limited over the past 200 years or more due to it's steep and rocky terrain. Huge boulders of Wilmington Complex blue rocks, which were formally a volcanic island more than 500 million years ago, are strewn along much of it's slope.
Boulder field of Wilmington Complex blue rocks.
Boulder field of Wilmington Complex blue rocks.
Invasives are nearly nonexistant except along the Northern Delaware Greenway Trail, which follows most of the east bank of the creek, and the park's west boarder with a development. Tulip poplars are larger and taller with a few specimen possiblly over 250 years old. The largest poplar measures 19' x 149.1'. This poplar may not be as old as it's size suggest. It recieves a constant suppy of water from an old spring house less than 20 yards away. Although the tree has balding bark it lacks other old growth characteristics such as large limbs and a gnarly form. Sixty six poplars were documented with dimensions in the 12' x 100' range with fourteen of those at or exceeding 150'.
19' x 149.1' Tulip poplar.
19' x 149.1' Tulip poplar.
The tallest tulip poplars grow in a swale on a west facing slope in the southeastern corner of the park. Two poplars recorded heights over 160'. One at 13'7" x 160.1' and the other at 9'9" x 164.9'. White ash had four specimens with recorded heights over 140', two of which had girths of 11' or more in the same swale as the 160' tulips. The tallest ash measured 11' x 148.7'.
An 11' x 148.7' white ash.
An 11' x 148.7' white ash.
Bitternut hickory recorded several specimen over 130'. The tallest measured 6'5" x 147.4'. Chestnut oak and Mountain laurel are common on the steep slopes and ridges along the creeks east bank. The tallest documented chestnut oak is a 6'8" x 127' specimen.
A stand of 200 year old Tulip poplars.
A stand of 200 year old Tulip poplars.
On 12/22/10 I was hiking along the east bank of the Brandywine Creek and heard the flap of a large wing. A Bald eagle was flying low to the water and heading upstream. The creek was frozen solid the week before but in the sun's rays and clear skies had nearly thawed. Mallards and Canadian geese where common on the creek that day and were likely on the eagles menu. Cruising 15' above the water and with a single up-stroke from it's powerful wings it perched 40' high on a sycamore limb situated on the west bank. I quickly grabbed my camera from my backpack and slowly headed back upstream 150 yards towards the eagle, taking several photos along the way. As I paralleled the eagle I took a perfect zoomed 40 yard photo of it jumping from the limb into flight. It was a beautiful site and a memory I'll never forget. The cameras batteries were shot and the last two of the three photos I took were not saved to the memory card. So here is an out of focus photo of a Bald eagle in a sycamore tree.
Bald eagle in a sycamore.
Bald eagle in a sycamore.
I did manage to take a photo of a Witch-hazel in flower on the same day. It must have been a late bloomer.
Witch-hazel flower.
Witch-hazel flower.
Brandywine Creek State Park Site Index

Species CBH Height Comment
A Basswood 7'11" 105.8'
A Beech 6'6" 125.7'
A Beech 8'5" 135' N 39*48.522' x W 75*34.641'
Bitternut Hickory 7'11" 133.9'
Bitternuy Hickory 6'9" 140'
Bitternut Hickory 6'5" 147.4' N 39*48.255' x W 75*34.097'
Black Cherry 5'7" 115.6'
Blackgum 9'9" 81.4'
Blackgum 5'9" 111.8'
Blackhaw 1'2" 30.3'
Black Oak 11'8" 130.5'
Black Oak 9' 133'
Black Oak 11'7" 137.2'
Black Walnut 7'1" 116.5'
Chestnut Oak 9'10" 119.3'
Chestnut Oak 6'7" 125.7'
Chestnut Oak 8'6" 126.9'
Chestnut Oak 6'8" 127'
Common Persimmon 3'8" 75.5'
E Hophornbeam 2'1" 56.6'
Flowering Dogwood 2' 52.4'
Mockernut Hickory 6'5" 114'
N Red Oak 7'8" 139.5'
N Red Oak 7'7" 140.5'
N Red Oak 7'3" 140.8'
Pignut Hickory 9'7" 138.8'
Pignut Hickory 7'5" 140.5'
Pignut Hickory 7'2" 141.2'
Pignut Hickory 7'4" 141.7'
Red Maple 10'4" 104.2'
Sassafras 3'10" 90.5'
Shagbark Hickory 4'1" 102.5'
Shagbark Hickory 5'3" 113.4'
Silver Maple 10'9' 99.3'
Slippery Elm 5'7" 102'
Sugar Maple 5'4" 97.6'
Sycamore 18' 96.6'
Sycamore 5'2" 125.6'
Tulip Poplar 6'10" 157.5'
Tulip Poplar 12'2' 158'
Tulip Poplar 10'2" 159.4'
Tulip Poplar 13'7" 160.1'
Tulip Poplar 9'9" 164.9'
White Ash 6'4" 140.1'
White Ash 11'4" 142.9'
White Ash 8'10" 147.4'
White Ash 9'7" 147.5'
White Ash 11' 148.7'
White Oak 11'4" 130'
White Oak 8'7" 132.2'
White Oak 8'6" 137.9'
Witch Hazel 1'7" 34'

There may be several new state height records but we have very little data from Delaware.

Brandywine Creek State Park 12 x 100 Club

Species CBH Height Comment
Black Oak 12'5" 103.2'
Black Oak 13'7" 107.6'
Black Oak 12'3" 115.2'
Black Oak 12'1" 118.9'
N Red Oak 12' 105.2'
N Red Oak 12' 121.7'
N Red Oak 15'11" 131' N 39*48.432' x W 75*33.727'

Note: Tulip Poplar is excluded from this list and will be included in a seperate report.

Brandtwine Creek State Park Rucker Index

Species CBH Height
Tulip Poplar 9'9" 164.9'
White Ash 11' 148.7'
Bitternut Hickory 6'5" 147.4'
Pignut Hickory 7'4" 141.7'
N Red Oak 7'3" 140.8'
White Oak 8'6" 137.9'
Black Oak 11'7" 137.2'
A Beech 8'5" 135'
Chestnut Oak 6'8" 127'
Sycamore 5'2" 125.6'

RI 140.62'

Brandywine Creek State Park may very well be Delaware's superlative site to see large and tall Tulip poplars.

George

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dbhguru
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Re: Brandywine Creek State Park

Post by dbhguru » Sat Jul 16, 2011 10:00 am

George,

Congratulations! You hit the ball not only out of the park, but out of the stadium with this report. I'm darn near speechless. It is going to take me some time to absorb the significance of this posting. You do realize that you are the proud owner of the two top Rucker Index sites in the Northeast, unless we consider Delaware as part of the Mid-Atlantic. I'm unsure of how we typically classify Delaware. The latitude is below 40 degrees. However, we typically include all of PA as in the Northeast.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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Bart Bouricius
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Re: Brandywine Creek State Park

Post by Bart Bouricius » Sat Jul 16, 2011 1:31 pm

George,

Very impressive post. I stopped at that park briefly many years ago on a trip back from Florida, but I had no idea what treasures there were deeper within the park.

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James Parton
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Re: Brandywine Creek State Park

Post by James Parton » Sat Jul 16, 2011 3:25 pm

Absolutely awesome! It would take me days to measure that many trees!
James E Parton
Ovate Course Graduate - Druid Student
Bardic Mentor
New Order of Druids

http://www.druidcircle.org/nod/index.ph ... Itemid=145

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sjhalow
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Re: Brandywine Creek State Park

Post by sjhalow » Sun Jul 17, 2011 9:16 am

Wow! I haven't seen anything comparable here in SW Pa. Truly Impressive. Congratulations George, great work!

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James Parton
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Re: Brandywine Creek State Park

Post by James Parton » Sun Jul 17, 2011 10:48 am

I thought the Brandywine was just outside the Shire in Middle Earth!?
James E Parton
Ovate Course Graduate - Druid Student
Bardic Mentor
New Order of Druids

http://www.druidcircle.org/nod/index.ph ... Itemid=145

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Will Blozan
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Re: Brandywine Creek State Park

Post by Will Blozan » Mon Jul 18, 2011 3:58 pm

George,

Stellar job! Looking at the aerials last summer I definitely had my eye on that area, and then after our trip to Winterthur I was even more encouraged. Are there any more similar areas left in DE? I wonder what lurkes unnoticed in some of the protected coves even on smaller sites.

Excellent report and awesome work!

Will

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Ranger Dan
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Re: Brandywine Creek State Park

Post by Ranger Dan » Sun Jul 24, 2011 9:38 am

Awesome report! Great shots! Thank you for all the detailed information, so that others may be able to know and enjoy this incredible place as well.

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George Fieo
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Re: Brandywine Creek State Park

Post by George Fieo » Sun Jul 24, 2011 10:23 pm

dbhguru wrote:George,

Congratulations! You hit the ball not only out of the park, but out of the stadium with this report. I'm darn near speechless. It is going to take me some time to absorb the significance of this posting. You do realize that you are the proud owner of the two top Rucker Index sites in the Northeast, unless we consider Delaware as part of the Mid-Atlantic. I'm unsure of how we typically classify Delaware. The latitude is below 40 degrees. However, we typically include all of PA as in the Northeast.

Bob
Bob,

Thanks. I thought Delaware was part of the Mid-Atlantic but now that you have mentioned it Brandywine Creek S.P. as well as Winterthur are north of the Mason-Dixon Line while part of southern NJ is below it. Ridley Creek S.P. has a latitude of 39 degrees and has a number of NE and PA height records. Is the Mason-Dixon Line the border between the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic? What divides the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions?

George

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George Fieo
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Re: Brandywine Creek State Park

Post by George Fieo » Sun Jul 24, 2011 10:35 pm

James Parton wrote:Absolutely awesome! It would take me days to measure that many trees!
James,

It did. I spent a total of five, eight hour days measuring trees and one day showing my brother and getting some coordinates of the park. I had a weeks worth of vacation time to use or lose.

George

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